This is a post from September of 2009. However, I thought that you would want it because you are probably baking cookies for Santa right now and I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but your cookies are inferior to these, because they are the best sugar cookies in the world. They just are. If you don't believe me, go ahead and bake up a batch. You won't be sorry and you will have baked the best sugar cookie in the world and your loved ones will pretty much make you Queen of the Universe, so it's a win win for everybody.
So, for the past couple of years, I've been trying to find THE perfect sugar cookie recipe. The recipe I have in mind yields a soft cookie, slightly cakey, crisp around the edges, sweet (but not too sweet to take a good butter cream-ish icing.) I'm not sure the recipe actually exists outside of my head. I mean, I've been looking for a while.
The ones I've tried have yielded doughs so wet and thin that the cookies can't be lifted onto a sheet, cookies so floury that they're bland, cookies that taste okay--but won't hold a shape to save their lives, cookies that never fail to bake without bubbles...ARGH!!
This weekend, I helped another woman throw a wedding shower for my Mary and I baked a batch of sugar cookies. I hated them. They didn't hold their shape AND had bubbles and the best thing about them was the chocolate icing I concocted for them. Ar to the gh.
The kidlets were horrified that I was daring to make cookies for somebody other than them. What kind of mother WAS I? I assured them that we would have a cookie-baking bonanza on Sunday, which appeased them enough that they stopped moaning on the floor. (Seriously. River: "WHA-utttt? No coooooookkkkiiieeessss? Ohhhhhhhh!!" Aaaaanand cue the collapsing to the carpet at my feet part.)
I sort of dreaded the making of the cookies, because there would come the requisite disappointment at their odd shape, weird taste, or wretched dough-consistency. I finally decided to go back to the recipe of my childhood, a recipe that comes from an Amy Vanderbilt cookbook of my mother's that is pretty much falling apart and has been since I've known it. I cannot even tell you the number of cookies we baked as children with this recipe. Millions, maybe. With mama's old metal cookie cutters and sugars we dyed with food coloring. Some of my favorite memories involve this recipe, which makes me wonder why I ever left it in the first place. Sometimes, it's okay to do it like your mother did, people. I'm just saying.
Y'all. The cookies were awesome. They aren't the EXACT cookies my wretched imagination keeps insisting on, but they're pretty close and I'm thinking the addition of a bit of baking soda might give me a bit more loft. In any case, they are so frickin' simple to make, they're delicious, they hold the shape of a cookie cutter like a dream, and they have just the right amount of chew or crisp, depending on how long you cook them.
Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever
1 stick of butter (OR margarine OR 1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
- Cream butter and sugar
- Add egg, vanilla, and milk. Mix until smooth.
- Combine flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Add flour mixture to wet mixture slowly. The dough will be very stiff.
- Wrap the dough and stick it in the freezer for an hour or so.
- On a floured surface, turn out the dough and roll to 1/4 inch. (I put the wax paper over the top of it to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin and to avoid adding more flour.)
- Cut out the cookies and lay them on a baking sheet. I prefer to use parchment paper or a silicone sheet, but you can stick them on an ungreased sheet and they should be fine. Sprinkle with sugar, non pareils, jimmies, or whatever other thingabobs you have in your pantry--oooh, cinnamon dots are SO GOOD on these things when you bake Christmas wreaths. You can also ice them when they're cool after baking.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes for a softer cookie, up to 12 for a crispy cookie.
This is what we wound up with:
Please note the beauty of the ducks and the dragonfly. (The bats from the halloween sprinkle sets make GREAT duck eyes.) I should point out that I use shortening when I'm making cut-outs because it prevents the cookies from spreading so much, especially when it's warm and muggy.
But I use butter for everything else I make with these, because let me tell you, this dough is the most versatile stuff ever. You can substitute between an eighth and a fourth of a cup of cocoa for the flour and make chocolate cookies. Grind up candy canes for peppermint candy cane-shaped cookies (oooh, dip them in chocolate.) Mix in some chopped pecans, roll the dough into little balls, dip the hot baked cookies in powdered sugar, and make wedding cookies. Roll the dough into little balls, dip them in cinnamon sugar, and have snickerdoodles. I'm contemplating substituting lemon extract for the vanilla and doing the powdered sugar roll thingy for some lemon chiller-type cookies. Maybe some anise or lavendar into the mix?
It's entirely possible that these cookies might change the world by their old-fashioned wonderfulness.
If you make any cookies with this recipe, let me know. I'm interested in charting the world-changing.